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Full text of "My Country And My People"

WOMAN'S  LIFE                       135

in the ninth century a widow was gready praised by the
Confucian males for cutting off her arm because a hotel-keeper
had dragged her by it, when she was refused entrance on her
way home accompanying her husband's coffin. In the Mongol
Dynasty another widow was greatly honoured for refusing to
show her ulcered breast to the doctor and heroically dying of
it1

In the Ming Dynasty this doctrine of chaste widowhood
became an official institution. Women who kept their widow-
hood from any age under thirty to the age of fifty were officially
honoured with pailou, and their families were exempt from
official labour service. It became then not only highly moral
to admire purity of character in women, but also highly con-
venient for the male relatives to do so. Chaste widowhood
became not only popular with the men and the widows3
relatives, but also became one of the easiest ways for women to
distinguish themselves. They lent honour, not only to their
own families but to their whole village or clan. In this sense
it had truly become a popular obsession, with just a few
occasional protests from independent minds. It was this
doctrine of chaste widowhood that caused Confucianism to be
denounced during the "Renaissance" of 1917 as a "man-
eating religion.'*

Along with the development of Confucian theory a stream of
real life was going on, based on social conventions, and still
more on economic pressure. More important than the in-
fluence of Confucianism was the fact that men controlled the
purse. For while Confucianism had erected chaste widowhood
into a religion, jewels and pearl necklaces, which had nothing
to do with Confucianism, turned women into concubines and
cocottes. The accumulation of wealth and the rise of great
houses during the Wei and Ch'in Dynasties, coupled with the
general political disorder, encouraged concubinage on the
one hand and forced the drowning of baby girls on the other,
owing to the fact that poor parents could not provide for the

1 Most of these stories can be found in the official histories of the different
dynasties, where special sections are devoted to lives of great women, along
with those of men. A woman who distinguished herself by committing suicide
to guard her chastity had a fair chance of leaving her name in literature in one
form or another.